Lenovo 5i Gaming Tower Review: NVIDIA GTX GPUs for cheap

While the Legion Tower 5i doesn't burst the corners bleeding edge gaming technology, it does offer a very solid starting ground for anyone new to gaming PCs or in need of a base to tinker with on limited funds.

With an Intel Core i5-11400 on 8GB of RAM paired with a 256GB SSD and 1TB HDD all powered by an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Super GPU for $999.99, the Legion Tower 5i can power some decent gaming experiences out of the box while also providing some solid parts for a rebuild down the line.

Starting at $999.99

While the end of the GPU shortage is on the horizon, there are still plenty of games to be played today, and Lenovo's 5i Gaming Tower is an affordable pre-built system that offers NVIDIA GPUs for relatively cheap.

Now in its 6th generation, the Lenovo 5i Gaming Tower improves upon a few key elements while oddly skimping on others in an effort to presumably hit that sub $1,000 price tag.

At the end of the day, the question gamers will need to ask themselves is a pre-built system with moderately performative specs, something that will satiate them until the price of GPUs comes down and specs drastically improve?

Legion Tower 5i Gen 6 (Intel)
Processor Up to 11th Generation Intel® Core™ i7-11700F Processor (2.50 GHz, up to 4.90 GHz with Turbo Boost, 8 Cores, 16 Threads, 16 MB Cache)
Operating System Windows 11 Home

Windows 10 Home

Graphics NVIDIA® GeForce® RTX™ 3060 12GB

NVIDIA® GeForce® RTX™ 3070 LHR 8GB

NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1660 Super 6GB

Storage 1 TB 7200 RPM HDD

Up to 1 TB PCIe SSD

Optional: Dual Hard drive configuration available

Weight Less than 14kg / 30.9lbs
Display Legion Vantage

McAfee LiveSafe™ (trial)

Office 365 (trial)

XBOX Game Pass

Storage Removable solid-state drive (SSD)6 options: 256 GB, 512 GB, 1TB, 2TB
Preloaded Software Windows Hello face authentication camera (front-facing)
1080p resolution front facing camera.
Dual far-field Studio Mics
Quad Omnisonic™ speakers with Dolby Atmos®
Memory 16GB or 32GB LPDDR4x RAM
Dimensions 205mm x 395.4mm x 420mm / 8.07" x 15.57" x 16.54"
Wireless 802.11AX (2 x 2)

Bluetooth® 5.1

Battery 650W: ES Gold

400W: ES Gold

Color Raven Black
Ports/Slots Front:

2 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1

2 x headphone/mic combo

Rear:

USB-C 3.2 Gen 2

2 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1

2 x USB-A 2.0

RJ45

3 x audio jack

USB port transfer speeds are approximate and depend on many factors, such as processing capability of host/peripheral devices, file attributes, system configuration and operating environments; actual speeds will vary and may be less than expected.

What's in the box Legion 5i Gen 6 Tower

USB Keyboard

USB Mouse

Quick Start Guide

 

Look and Feel

It's a black box. Not much to report here for folks who will toss the Legion Tower 5i under a desk. However, for the gamers who like to display their towers, the 5i presents a mild showing of flare over its 5th Gen predecessor while also trimming the size down a bit.

The Raven Black aesthetic pairs well with most desktop color schemes and Lenovo continues to opt for more subdued designs for its gaming rigs with a subtle powder coating on parts of the outer box alongside 70 percent of plastic for the remaining parts of the rig.

The side panels are aligned with screws towards the rear of the tower, and a tempered glass cut out allows for a view of the inside of the tower on the right side. Instead of a flush level top there is a "fin" that raises the back of the tower to help hide a handle for transporting the box if necessary.

Lenovo Legion 5i Tower - side

The front of the Intel-powered model has a faux mesh look to it while the AMD model apparently comes with actual plastic mesh for possible additional cooling.

The only other notable design features on the Tower come by way of an RGB controller mounted tucked behind the motherboard for a cool light show that can be programmed via the Lenovo Vantage app on PCs.

As for the more important aspects of the tower's design, Lenovo opted to put in a 120mm ARGB fan towards the front of the rig for cool air intake that occurs via slot neat the base of the tower as well as an additional one in the rear for hot air exhaust. Rather than placing vents along the bottom and top of the box, Lenovo is pushing air in unilateral vertical pattern through the base of the device.

Lenovo Legion 5i fans

Another issue that will arise over time is that there is very little to no dust filtration applied to any part of the rig. The sections where air flow occurs are open enough to collect dust and without the mesh design found on the AMD models, there is little natural filtration that will occur.

Gamers will need to regularly clean the unit to keep it from breaking down over time.

The port selection on the 5i Tower includes 2 USB-A 3.2 ports, 2 USB-A 2.0 ports, Ethernet and 3.5mm audio jack for 5.1 surround support. Also, on the back of the 5i, there is DisplayPort, HDMI, and DVI ports. Regarding cable management inside the box, it's a mess. Between some proprietary parts and the odd placing of thermal pads on memory boards, randomly placed foam parts and zip bundling, the 5i could be a bit annoying for gamers who have a standardized process for taking apart their Towers or accessing cables.

Lenovo Legion 5i ports

Lenovo tosses a lot of the cabling behind the left side of the box which is meant to face away from the tempered glass viewing portal but once open owners are privy to some haphazard cable placement.

As for upgradeability, the PSU is manufactured by 80 Plus Gold and consists of 400W of power, the cradles inside house two slots for M.2 SSDs with support for PCIe 4.0 (despite not adding additional RAM).

The mATX motherboard comes with a B560 chipset in a pretty regular mount even though Lenovo adds its own customizations on top that surprisingly omits a VRM heatsink, presumably in the name of cost.

To that end, the first upgrade to the 5i Tower will most likely be a memory one that adds to the 8GB of single-channel performance out of the box. With the custom Lenovo motherboard not supporting XMP, the RAM installed will actually run at a lower 2933MHz than its advertised 3200MHz on the box.

Lenovo Legion 5i side panel

Performance

Without having multiple tower setups to run actual test side by side, I did the most I could with a standard stress test as well as pairing data from benchmarks of other recorded rigs.

Running a combination of HWMonitor, Prime 95, Intel's Processor Diagnostic Tool, CPU-Z, Cinebench, AIDA64, and other free tools I was able to measure fan noise, CPU throttling, heat output, and clock speeds.

Lenovo Legion 5i Keyboard

When fully stressed the 5i Tower remained relatively quiet even when the fans were running between 1140 and 1550 RPMs and the CPU sat between 80 C and 86 C, using 65W power. GPU wise the heat was around 64 C to 68 C at 1.89GHz.

When using Lenovo's pre calibrated modes such as "Balanced" and "Performance" thermal throttling was non-existent despite the fan speeds ramping up and down respectively. The only apparent changes in gaming modes occurred when the CPU clock dropped to 3.09GHz under "Balanced Mode".

As for synthetic benchmark competition:

Lenovo 5i Gaming Tower Review: NVIDIA GTX GPUs for cheap - OnMSFT.com - April 6, 2022

Gaming

I tried to throw what I could at the machine to choke it up, but even games such as Red Dead Redemption 2 played decently at medium settings for 47 FPS at 1440p resolution and at 65 FPS on Balanced Mode with 1080p.

Another semi-demanding game that performed decently was Cyberpunk 2077 which was played at 1440p resolution and still produced plus 65 FPS and when the resolution was dropped to a crisp 1080p the FPS ramped up to high 90's low 100's.

Lenovo Legion 5i -mouse

One of the last games tested was Rainbow Six Siege which got upwards of 200 FPS on settings at its peak but averaged around 80 FPS more consistently.

Summary

All of the moves Lenovo makes to package this pre-built system work for parents looking to appease their kids first foray into PC gaming, content editors looking for a relatively cheap workstation replacement and moderate gamers struggling to decently priced GPUs in the market now.

There are things the company could have done that were of seemingly no cost to the process as well as some that would have inevitably raised the price but overall, the Legion 5i Tower is a solid rig for beginners.

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